Council tax demand and told every tenant should be on a fixed term AST!

by Readers Question

10:33 AM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Council tax demand and told every tenant should be on a fixed term AST!

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Council tax demand and told every tenant should be on a fixed term AST!

I have received a demand from Bedford Borough Council for back dated council tax for 2013.fixed

The tenant said he moved out 6 months earlier  and could I actually prove when he vacated.

The Council say that due to a recent case, if the tenant’s tenancy has gone periodic and moves out without informing council, then they can charge the landlord for the period and they said every tenant should be on fixed term ASTs to cover that!

David



Comments

Rob Draper

11:20 AM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

This is serious. Can you obtain the exact legal authority please

Mark Lynham

11:26 AM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

surely a rent statement of payment would prove possession? also, date you received the keys back would also count as when you gained possession, certainly according to my local council.... sounds a bit odd and not come across that before.

Ian Narbeth

11:30 AM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

I think the Council's view is incorrect. Liability for payment is set out in the Local Government Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1992/14/section/6 See also: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/ihtmanual/ihtm28192.htm
Whether the AST is fixed or periodic is not relevant. You may have a problem if the tenant was not resident unless your tenancy with him required payment of the Council Tax. If it has that obligation then in a worst case you can sue the tenant for the money.

I suggest you ask the Council to cite the case authority they refer to. A County Court case does not create a legal precedent.

Rob Draper

12:06 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ian Narbeth" at "11/11/2015 - 11:30":

Of course s6 LGFA 1992 paras(a) to (d) refer to "resident"
and the ruling may turn on the definition of that..
The right to reside is not the same as residency

Luke P

12:55 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

In response to this, we began a standard programme of re-signing all 350+ tenants onto fixed term tenancy every six months. The tenants pay for this 'privilege' and I can now demonstrate at all times who is responsible for Council tax.

I couldn't gather any support against what LAs appear to be up to at the time so figured this was the best way to insulate myself, particularly as I rent to a deprived area where many tenants 'do as they please' in that they move when suits them, regardless of any tenancy agreement, at the drop of a hat. If under a SPT, the date the tenant gives the Council as their moving date was considered gospel unless I could provide anything 'concrete' to the contrary. In some cases the tenant would still be living in my property by the time I received the notification letter from the Council and when I telephoned them to ask them to send an officer to the address to witness/record it to be the case, I was told they do not have the resources! Even photographs taken by me were treated with scepticism.

Some of the problem here is when a tenant is claiming HB (which the majority of mine do). HB only has to be paid for a tenant at the address they inform the LA they are LIVING (despite the fact they may be RESPONSIBLE, Council tax wise, for another address). When they tie the two together, problems occur.

For example, it is theoretically possible for a tenant to walk down a high street and sign a new six fixed term tenancy with five different letting agents. This would make them liable for Council tax at all five properties (which the agents/landlords could prove by way of providing copies of those agreements). The tenant could choose any one of those properties, or even another altogether they call their 'main home' and this is where their HB will be paid for (this could also change on a daily basis if they so wished). The problem comes when the LA tries to tie together information they have for HB with the Council tax. They become confused and then owing to this recent ruling have played on this (I imagine because landlords pay 100% whereas many HB tenants only make a contribution and often landlords are easy to get hold of/aren't likely to disappear).

As Chair of the local landlords' association, I did manage to persuade them to spend some of the money we have on a solicitor, but he turned out to be the weakest, most useless chap I have happened across and my enthusiasm died out...particularly once I'd figured my own solution.

In fact, now I think about it...I had Trading Standards pay me a visit over a letter I distributed to all of my tenants informing them they would have to come in and re-sign (and pay a charge). I cited the Council's new approach as the reason for this (some have been on SPTs for 15+ years) and worded this as, "Owing to recent change is working practices by the Local Authority, [we need to re-sign you]..." I closed the letter with direction to the Council if my tenants had a problem with this. I believe a tenant imparted this as "Because of a change in the law, [we need to re-sign you]..." -Trading Standards were looking to collar me for churning out incorrect information, but soon realised I had no case to answer.

Rob Draper

13:08 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

A Periodic tenancy is an AST tenancy - and no different from the fixed period (if any) except in terms of possession.and notices relating thereto.

David Price

13:36 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

A statutory perodic tenancy requires residency as it is less than six months. This makes the landlord responsible for council tax if the tenant does a runner. A contractual periodic tenancy is a continuation of the original tenancy and leaves the tenant responsible for council tax. Make sure any perodic tenancy is a contractual perodic.

Michael Barnes

13:46 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "David Price" at "11/11/2015 - 13:36":

How do you make a periodic tenancy contractual?

I.e. What words are needed in the contract?

I have been unable to find this online.

Michael Barnes

13:55 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

This has been covered before on this site, and my recollection is that the council is correct.

Who the council can pursue in what order is in statute. A court ruling was that anyone with less than 6 month tenancy does not have a material interest in the property so cannot be pursued by the council. A statutory periodic is considered less than 6 months (probably because it is a new tenancy not a continuation of the original tenancy, as per housing act).
In this case it is landlord's responsibility to pay and pursue ex-tenant.

David Price

14:04 PM, 11th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Michael Barnes" at "11/11/2015 - 13:46":

Simply say that the tenancy continues as a contractual periodic in the AST contract.

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